How to install a PC nVidia card in a Mac Pro and how to safely do OS updates

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by SteveJobzniak, Jul 7, 2016.

  1. SteveJobzniak, Jul 7, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2016

    SteveJobzniak Suspended

    SteveJobzniak

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2015
    #1
    The problem with non-EFI (PC) graphics cards is that they aren't initialized by the Mac boot sequence, so the screen remains black until a compatible driver is loaded.

    The built-in default OS X nVidia driver supports older-generation graphics cards like the GTX 680 (you still won't have a bootscreen, but the OS installer and the OS itself will never be a black screen, and you won't have to manually install any drivers).

    However, the built-in driver doesn't support the newest PC cards (such as nVidia's GTX 7xx Maxwell architecture or higher), so here's what you need to do when you want a very modern graphics card:


    Initial setup and preparation for installing the PC graphics card:
    1. Disable FileVault (whole disk encryption) if you have it. It does NOT work with non-EFI graphics cards and you won't be able to boot. Unfortunate but true. That's because it cannot talk to the graphics card to generate the password GUI, so you can't even type it blindly. It simply does not work. You will not get ANYWHERE if you have disk encryption enabled. Trust me, this is a fact. People online who have said they could type it blind used very old OS X versions that used to be capable of doing it. Not possible anymore.
    2. Pick up your old EFI card (such as the GT120 that came with most classic Mac Pros). (PS: Always keep this card somewhere in case of future emergencies or OS reinstalls).
    3. Boot the Mac. Go into System Preferences : Sharing, and enable Screen Sharing.
    4. On your iPhone, install the free "VNC Viewer" by RealVNC (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/vnc-viewer/id352019548?l=en&mt=8). It supports Apple's screen sharing protocol. You will need this app a lot (or screen sharing via another Mac) in the future.
    5. Also go into the Mac's System Preferences : App Store, and disable "Install OS X updates" and "Install system data files and security updates". You CANNOT let the OS auto-install anything that can change the OS X build number, because the nVidia driver is tied to the build number, so if you update the OS (regardless of if it is "just" a "security update" and not a new "10.11.x whatever"), it will disable the nVidia driver and your display stops working! This cannot be stressed enough!
    6. Find the correct NVIDIA Web Driver. The official nVidia website is a mess, so use this instead to locate the correct installer for your OS version: http://www.macvidcards.com/drivers.html. Read the instructions on that page if you don't know which OS version you are running. And if there are multiple drivers in a row for the same OS version, pick the rightmost one (it is the newest driver).
    7. Now install the NVIDIA Web Driver. It adds support for the latest nVidia cards. When the installer tells you to reboot, don't click Reboot yet.
    8. Before rebooting, open a Terminal and type: sudo nvram boot-args="nvda_drv=1" to be absolutely sure that the nvidia driver is the active one. Sometimes the initial installer failed to activate it for me, so I had to do this.
    9. Now press the Reboot button, and your GT120 (or whatever EFI card you have) should still work. But it now uses the nVidia driver.
    10. Shut down the machine, and remove the GT120 and put the PC graphics card in there.
    11. Plug in the extra power cables (if your card needs them; most PC cards do). Your Mac Pro supports 2x6-pin (75 watts each) connectors, and you can buy those special cables online by Googling "mac pro graphics power cable" to find the one for your version of the Mac Pro. And a fair warning: Do not buy any 6-pin to 8-pin converters to try to run "juicier" graphics cards without making sure it's a power-efficient card, because 8-pin ports are able to draw twice as much electricity and can fry your motherboard when connected to a mere 6-pin power cable, so be careful. I prefer PC graphics cards with single/dual 6-pin ports, without any 8-pin ports at all!
    12. Boot. The screen should be black until the login screen appears. That's because the driver loads late.
    13. Warning: Be aware that if you ever clear NVRAM at startup (via the special key combination), it will reset the "nvda_drv=1" argument and revert to the Apple driver instead, which means your PC graphics card will stop working. If you do that, you'll need to put the old EFI card back in and re-activate the nVidia driver.

    How to update to a new version of OS X / a new security update:

    1. When a new OS update or security update arrives, wait a few days until MacVidCards (the URL above) or various forums state that nVidia has released a driver. It usually takes 1-4 days. Do NOT update in the meantime or you will lose your display. When there's a nVidia driver available for the new update, you can proceed with step 2.
    2. Open a Terminal and type: sudo nvram boot-args="nv_disable=1" to disable both Apple's built-in driver and the NVIDIA driver (meaning that no card driver will be loaded AT ALL and the machine will run headless with a software-based graphics driver). This prevents a reboot-loop by the incompatible (older kernel version) NVIDIA driver, and a reboot-loop by the default driver's inability to support the newer GPUs. Note that this step must be done carefully; simply resetting NVRAM will not achieve this and will just lead to Apple's built-in driver being used, so *do not do that*.
    3. Download the OS update and let it reboot to install the update.
    4. Screen share into the machine (via the iPhone app I mentioned, or via another Mac) and log in. It uses the very slow software graphics driver, so the GUI will be a bit sluggish.
    5. Go into the System Preferences panel, and go into the nVidia Driver panel at the bottom. It has a button to check for nVidia driver updates. Press it and let it install the new driver. This is how you get new driver versions (no need to go back to MacVidCards anymore).
    6. Do not click the "Restart" button when the driver has been installed.
    7. Instead, open a Terminal, and type the following: sudo nvram boot-args="nvda_drv=1" to enable the NVIDIA driver. Note that the updated driver installer actually added that flag already, but it didn't remove our "nv_disable" flag (which means the drivers remain disabled), so that's why this command is necessary.
    8. Lastly, click the "Restart" button and enjoy the images on your screen again! :)

    This sounds more complex than it is. After a while you get used to it: See a new OS update. Wait a few days. Disable the old driver, reboot, screenshare, install and enable new driver, and reboot. It takes about 15 minutes and isn't much hassle at all. And it's worth it to avoid having to pay for flashing via MacVidCards.

    The only reason to pay for EFI flashing is if you really, really want FileVault whole-disk encryption, easier access to Windows in boot camp (otherwise you have to reboot to Windows via a "set startup disk" app for both Mac and Windows since you cannot choose a disk at startup), and easier OS reinstalls. But all in all, doing it the DIY way that I've mentioned above, is very easy in my opinion, and feels completely safe since you always have the fallback of the screen sharing access. Just be sure to follow the steps and you can never go wrong. And if you still go wrong, temporarily put in the old EFI graphics cards and you'll be up and running in no time.

    Enjoy!
     
  2. SteveJobzniak thread starter Suspended

    SteveJobzniak

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2015
    #2
    Something else to remember: nVidia keeps releasing drivers for now. But since only classic Mac Pros can use PC graphics cards, we should not rely on them still releasing drivers 5 years from now. Something to think about... But I guess that if they stop releasing drivers, I will stay on the last OS X version that has a driver...

    On the other hand, they need to keep making new drivers for Apple's own usage, so maybe they'll think it's ok to keep releasing general drivers for the dwindling number of Classic Mac Pro users too, since the work of making the driver is already done.
     
  3. ActionableMango macrumors 604

    ActionableMango

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    #3
    Thanks for doing this. It is sorely needed.

    However, I recommend updating the title to include Maxwell or something, since only Maxwell cards are affected. I could imagine someone not buying a 680 for example, after seeing these long procedures and not knowing that the 680 wouldn't be affected.
     
  4. SteveJobzniak thread starter Suspended

    SteveJobzniak

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2015
    #4
    @ActionableMango Indeed, it's good to have a complete guide that covers it all. And good point, I rewrote the opening paragraph to mention what happens with older pre-Maxwell cards.

    By the way, in a complete bout of insanity, Apple has updated the nVidia driver in macOS Sierra, but told nVidia to remove the support for Maxwell or higher cards. So the new built-in driver is very modern, but lacks all modern cards. Damn you Apple, what the hell! We'll have to keep manually installing 3rd party drivers on Sierra too.
     
  5. BetaEcho macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2016
    #5
    Thank you for posting this.

    Using this method I was able to "successfully" stop the boot loop issuse I was having. Then I connected my second monitor and the boot loop returned. I've tried using Display Port > DVI and HMDI > DVI adpaters with no success. No matter which ports I use to feed the monitors I get a boot loop unless a single monitor is used. My Mac Pro is cobbled together so this issue could be from anywhere in the chain of Hacks. Any tips would be most helpful.

    Mac Pro 1,1 (2,1)
    OS X 10.10.5
    Booting off PCIe SSD
    MSI GTX 980 OCV1
    x2 Cinema Displays (DVI)
     
  6. SteveJobzniak thread starter Suspended

    SteveJobzniak

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2015
    #6
    @BetaEcho I wish I knew why you get a boot loop when connecting more than 1 monitor.

    What I would try:
    1. Plug a single monitor in, with and without adapters, in all different ports of the graphics cards. If all ports work with a single screen, then you know for sure that the issue is that the ports work but that multi-monitor mode does not work. At least that gives you somewhere to troubleshoot.
    2. Try the card with multiple monitors in a PC. If multiple ports works there, the card hardware is working.

    After that you will know if the issue is multi-monitors on OS X and can Google the issue to possibly find a solution for that.

    PS: My GTX 960 works with multiple ports at once with the nVidia Web Driver on El Capitan. Using DisplayPort cables and HDMI cables. I had three monitors (1x DVI, 2x DisplayPort).
     
  7. Hammer & Chisel Man macrumors newbie

    Hammer & Chisel Man

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2016
    Location:
    Sherman Oaks, CA
    #7
    I have my eye on a new GTX 1060 but I was told there are no drivers for it yet. How would this card work once the drivers are available? Would having it flashed allow me download OS updates without the above ritual?
     
  8. ActionableMango macrumors 604

    ActionableMango

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    #8
    Flashed Maxwell card avoids most of the above ritual. For us we wait a few days after an OSX update for the equivalent web drivers, then update both.

    For Pascal it's too early to tell. I don't see how anyone could describe how a flashed Pascal will work until it actually works and we know.
     
  9. Hammer & Chisel Man macrumors newbie

    Hammer & Chisel Man

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2016
    Location:
    Sherman Oaks, CA
    #9
    I'm over my head here. I don't even know the difference between Maxwell cards and Pascal cards. The main reason I'm attracted to the nvidea 1060 is it has the monitor port 1.4. Every other card uses 1.2
    Applecare told me that 1.4 includes sound, much like HDMI. I figure if I have to do this I might as well try to get the most up to date card that I can. In addition, since I'm not a power user the 1060 will do me just fine and it's less than $300.00 brand new. I'll need to use the monitor port with a HDMI adapter to plug it into my new 43 inch 4k ultra HD TV.
    It requires 1080X1980 at 60 hz. It seems like the HDMI outputs at 30hz.
    I would be perfectly fine paying MacVidCards to flash it for me, or buy it directly from them, if that would mean I could skip all the bruha at update time.
    I could wait for the drivers to come out.
    Am I all wet here?
    Thanks,
     
  10. ActionableMango macrumors 604

    ActionableMango

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    #10
    I think you've been led astray. Some points:
    • Roughly speaking, Maxwell cards are the 900 series and Pascal cards are the more recent 1000 series.
    • Audio from the graphics card isn't limited to DisplayPort 1.4. People have been getting audio out from HDMI, DVI, and DisplayPort 1.1/1.2. Granted, it is tricky and relies on a third party driver that may or may not work in the future. See here: http://forums.macrumors.com/threads/guide-hdmi-audio.1499797/
    • I assume "1080x1980" is a typo for 1920x1080, which is 1080P. If you want to display 1080P at 60Hz on your TV, HDMI will do just fine.
    • If you want to display 4K on your 4K TV, someone else will have to answer that as I have no experience with it, and it seems to be fraught with incompatibilities and gotchas.
    • 1060 is not yet supported on OS X. It might be supported tomorrow, or never supported, or supported but buggy. It would be a terrible choice right now.
     
  11. derwolfmac macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2016
    #12
    Do you have any suggestions on how to get this to get a 980Ti to work in Sierra? It was working fine in Mavericks, but now that I've upgraded to Sierra I can't get the Web Driver to actually activate. I can install it with some modifications to the kext since my build is 16B1657 and the last Nvidia Web Drivers are for 16B1555. I posted the issue I'm having in the Nvidia sticky thread, but thought maybe you would have some suggestions.
     
  12. derwolfmac macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2016
    #13
    Just an FYI, but I got my 980Ti working in Sierra 10.12.1 (16B1657) with the latest Nvidia driver (367.15.10.15f03) after I reset my NVRAM.
     
  13. lenni_hh macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 19, 2016
    Location:
    Hamburg
    #14
    Just ran into this post when I was thinking about how to upgrade my MacPro 5.1 from El Capitan to Sierra using a GeForce GTX 980 that is not flashed. Awesome! I'll give it a try tomorrow!!! Thank you "SteveJobzniak"!!!
     
  14. SteveJobzniak thread starter Suspended

    SteveJobzniak

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2015
  15. lenni_hh macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 19, 2016
    Location:
    Hamburg
    #16
    There's another little "trick" for updating OSX. There's an iPad app called "Duet". It shows your Mac's screen on the iPad. Therefore you have to install the app on your iPad and the "Duet Mac app" (you can download it from the the developer's website) on your Mac. Now simply run your OSX update and restart your computer. Then connect your iPad via USB to your Mac and start the app. After a few seconds you'll see your Mac's screen on your iPad (while your Mac's screen stays dark). Using your Mac's keyboard and mouse you can now update the NVIDIA driver and make it the default graphics driver. Reboot your Mac, done! I've done that several times...works without any problems.

    I'm not sure if this works when you install a new OSX. To make "Duet" work I suppose the Mac app has to be loaded. I don't think this is the case, when I install a new OSX...
     
  16. ActionableMango macrumors 604

    ActionableMango

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    #17
    Nice tip. It's kind of like the screen sharing method, but for those who have an iPad instead of a second computer.
     
  17. Synchro3 macrumors 65816

    Synchro3

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2014
    #18
    Works with an iPhone too. But all is so tiny. :D
     
  18. mgmtm3 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2016
    #19
    when typing in sudo nvram boot-args="nv_disable=1" it gives me an error: nvram: Error setting variable - 'boot-args': (iokit/common) general error. Anyone seen this?
     
  19. PieTunes macrumors 6502

    PieTunes

    Joined:
    May 6, 2016
    Location:
    San Diego, CA
    #20
    Are you booted into the Recovery partition? To run that command, you have to be in the Recovery partition ever since Sierra came out.

    https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT206871
     
  20. mgmtm3 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2016
    #21
    Nope, just followed the directions at the top of the thread. I want to upgrade to 10.12.2 with my 970. How can I boot into the recovery partition if I can't see any boot screens on startup?
     
  21. ActionableMango macrumors 604

    ActionableMango

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    #22
    Can't do NVRAM commands in Sierra? :(

    Hold down Command-R at bootup.

    I've been told Recovery partition now inits PC cards, so you should see screen after it boots up.
     
  22. SteveJobzniak thread starter Suspended

    SteveJobzniak

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2015
    #23
    That's why I said that you should use VNC Viewer on iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch. It connects to the built-in Apple Screen Sharing.

    There is no need for Duet. It's just a different kind of screen sharing which is more hassle since it isn't built in and needs a separate app on your computer at all times.

    Also, his post is full of lots of other mistakes. You can't even boot your computer if you don't disable the nVidia driver first, since the built-in Apple nVidia driver will try to load and then crash when talking to a more modern card.

    So uh guys, forget everything that guy said. It's all wrong. Sorry.

    Follow my guide. It lets you use screen sharing from your iOS devices, and disables the Apple + nVidia drivers so that your computer doesn't get stuck in an endless reboot loop.
     
  23. JJ71 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2012
    #24
    My Radeon 5770 Mac Edition seems to have died. Luckily I had a recently retired PC NVIDIA card on hand, a GTX 960. Using the web drivers I was able to get things going again. But I'm worried that I can't easily do clean installs and such. Are there any cheap options for fully compatible cards just to use in these special cases, or for PC Cards that one can flash. I don't care at all about performance, I'd just like to be able to navigate OS installs and such. I'm running 10.11.x on a Mac Pro 3,1.
     
  24. AkuskaUK macrumors 6502

    AkuskaUK

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2011
    Location:
    Shanklin, Isle Of Wight
    #25
    MacVidCards or their Europe distributor "MacStoreUk". I recently sent my 989ti to them and it works a treat!
     

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